Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes badly let Ole Gunnar Solskjaer down as they fell to a shock 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.
Donny van de Beek was given a rare start in the FA Cup against Liverpool, although Fernandes came off the bench in the second half to win the game with a sublime free kick.
It’s been almost a year since Fernandes arrived at Old Trafford and his arrival has appeared to have made a massive difference as it’s fair to say that he has transformed United’s fortunes, so it was perhaps hardly surprising he was recalled in his favoured position as a central No. 10 with Pogba on the left to face Chris Wilder’s side.
But Solskjaer may been left to rue his decision to restore Fernandes to the starting line-up, as he produced an uncharacteristically wasteful display as the Premier League strugglers caused a stunning upset to pick up only their second win of the season.
Fernandes started the midweek defeat in a central position behind United’s first-choice striker Anthony Martial but had a bad game far below his usual high standards.
Having beaten Liverpool in Sunday’s FA Cup fourth round tie, United largely struggled to get out of first gear, as they trailed 1-0 after Kean Bryan met John Fleck’s corner with a well-timed header.
Wilder’s boys, who have scored the fewest amount of goals in the Premier League this season, looked a far more lively threat before Harry Maguire scored his first goal at Old Trafford to level the score.
Their hopes of salvaging a point, however, were all but ended after substitute Oliver Burke’s shot took a deflection off Axel Tuanzebe to sail past the helpless David de Gea.
Midfielder Paul Pogba struggled to get a foothold in the game as United continued to labour, yet it was another uninspiring top-flight performance from Fernandes that will be most concerning for Solskjaer.
It’s perhaps telling that Pogba, despite his obvious struggles, still received a higher SofaScore rating than his teammate, whilst he also took more touches of the ball (116) as he tried in vain to dictate play.
At times the 26-year-old was a total passenger, as he lost possession 25 times – the most out of any player on the pitch, including Aaron Wan-Bissaka (15) and Pogba (19), and far higher than his season average of 20.9, as per SofaScore, as he regularly gifted possession to the opposition.
Despite his best efforts, Fernandes failed to offer much by way of an end product in the final third, as he didn’t register a single shot on target or provide an assist. He also couldn’t complete a single cross from five attempts successfully, per SofaScore.
Fernandes has now gone four league games in a row without a goal or an assist. With a trip to Arsenal on the horizon, Solskjaer will be hoping he can stop the rot from spreading further before they take on Mikel Arteta’s side at the Emirates.
AND in other news, Manchester United should consider January loan exit for Donny van de Beek…